NRA-ILA Files Friend of the Court Brief Urging the Supreme Court to Invalidate ATF’s Bump Stock Rule

Gun Rights

NRA-ILA filed an amicus curiae (or friend of the court) brief in the United States Supreme Court urging the court to invalidate ATF’s 2018 rule that classified bump stocks as machine guns. This is the second time NRA-ILA has filed an amicus curiae brief at the Supreme Court in a case challenging this rule, in addition to several other briefs that were filed in the lower courts. 

ATF had determined that bump stocks were not machine guns on ten separate occasions from 2008 to 2017. But that changed in 2018, when ATF announced that it would review its regulatory definition of machinegun. NRA-ILA filed comments opposing ATF’s reinterpretation at that time. Nevertheless, ATF reversed course and classified bump stocks as machineguns. That change prompted several lawsuits.

“ATF got it wrong,” the brief argues. Congress defined machine gun “based on the trigger’s mechanics, nothing else.” But in reinterpreting “machinegun” ATF “moved the goalposts” and looked to factors beyond the “function of the trigger.” “ATF went off target.” 

But this case is about much more than bump stocks. At bottom, it’s about how much discretion or leeway ATF has to interpret federal law, especially the laws that impose criminal liabilities. That question has divided the lower courts: The Fifth and Sixth Circuits have ruled that ATF does not have any authority to interpret the criminal laws that it enforces. While the Tenth and District of Columbia Circuits have come to the opposite conclusions. The brief argues for the former position: for 200 years, the Supreme Court has consistently held that “the power to create crimes lies exclusively with Congress.” Thus, when criminal liability is on the line, “ATF’s position is ‘not relevant at all.”’

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The Court will hear oral arguments this spring and the case will ultimately be decided before the current term ends in June. 

The case is captioned as Cargill v. Garland.

Please stay tuned to for future updates on NRA-ILA’s ongoing efforts to defend your constitutional rights.

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